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India drops out from Asian Test Championship in Pakistan
AFP - 21 August 2001

NEW DELHI, Aug 21 (AFP) - India on Tuesday decided not to participate in the four-nation Asian Cricket Test Championship set to begin later this month on Pakistani soil, official sources said.

The government sources said the decision was taken in a meeting between Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani and Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh late Tuesday evening.

Their discussions were on the basis of a letter written by Sports Minister Uma Bharati to the prime minister suggesting India should not participate in the Asian Cricket Test Championship, the sources said.

The four-nation championship was due to begin at Multan in Pakistan from August 29 with the first-ever Test between Pakistan and Bangaldesh.

India were scheduled to play Pakistan in the city of Lahore in September -- an event which would have been the first Test match in Pakistan between the two rivals after more than one decade.

India has refused to participate in any bilateral cricket series with Pakistan, whom it accuses of backing cross-border terrorism in the disputed state of Kashmir.

Other sources said the Indian decision to boycott the championship was a fallout of a full-scale military skirmish fought by India and Pakistan in the Kargil zone of disputed Kashmir in the summer of 1999.

India had cancelled a scheduled cricket tour of Pakistan in December last year and then pulled out of the Sharjah series in the Gulf because of Pakistan's presence.

The rejection came a day after firebrand sports minister Bharati in New Delhi said India will not be coerced in participating in the tournament.

``The decision cannot be forced upon the government,'' Bharati said Monday, reacting to Asian Cricket Foundation President Jagmohan Dalmiya's statement that India should convey their decision by August 23 or the championship would go ahead without them.

``We will not take a decision merely on the threat issued by someone,'' Bharati, a vocal Hindu nationalist leader, added.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars, two of them over Kashmir, since the subcontinent's independence from British rule in 1947.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and training Islamic guerrillas in Kashmir, a charge Islamabad denies.

Relations between the two now-nuclear states deteriorated after a landmark summit between Indian prime minister Vajpayee and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf ended last month without tangible results in the Taj Mahal town of Agra.